Some people reckon the term “farmer’s wife” is redundant nowadays. Being married to a farmer is certainly a very different proposition compared with even 20 years ago and, increasingly, men are marrying female farmers.
Whatever the circumstances, though, when you marry a farmer, you’re also marrying a farm and a family, and you’ll find yourself with new neighbours, possibly in a new part of the country.
There will be some things you will be naturally good at, some where you might have to adapt a bit and some where you have to, ahem, cheat a little. Here (with tongue only slightly in cheek) are some dos and don’ts for women in this situation.
1. Win prizes
A perfect farm wife should be able to prove her capabilities at the local agricultural show.
Winning prizes is not easy, so you’ll need to do your homework. Scout around the year before and see if there are any baking, craft or flower arranging classes with only a few entries.
Once you’ve decided on what to enter, join your local WI group to perfect your skills.
2. Turn back runaway livestock
It is a universal truth that no matter how fast you run, a runaway animal will run faster. If you jog, it will trot. If you trot, it will canter. If you run as fast as you can, it will gallop.
Apart from needing a belt on your trousers, a sports bra, plenty of patience and good wellies, sometimes extra preparation can make all the difference.
You could buy hubby a good working dog for his birthday, engagement or wedding gift. It will save a lot of angst, puffing and shouting.
3. Find the right field
You will realise the importance of this if you ever are told “bring dinner to us in the field which is to the right of the third field over from the yard, that’s the one with lots of gorse in the hedge”.
Most, if not all, of the fields will have names. Learn those that apply to size first, such as “The Big Field” or the “Long Meadow” and then to those named for something in or beside the field, such as “The Buttercup Field”, “Church Field”, “Quarry Field”, “Heathery Hill” or the “Letterbox”.
4. Perfect your signature dish
To earn full respect in the community, you must have a “signature bake” to bring along to all parish, school and community events.
It must look impressive and be considered delicious by all adults and children.
No one else should do something similar if you want yours to stand out and, indeed, everyone will know you’re there when they spot your signature bake on the table.
5. Forge his signature
Of course, this is highly illegal and so I wouldn’t condone it, but there are many times when the farmer’s signature is required and he’s in the furthest field.
I suppose it would make life much easier if you learned to forge his signature – perhaps he could change his signature to a squiggle once you get married.
6. Understand instructions
There are plenty of times when you’re working together and you can’t really hear him.
Does he mean that you stop the black heifer or the other one? Are you supposed to reverse or go forward? Which gate are you expected to close?
The dog manages on a few instructions such as “go bye”, “away” and “sit”. I’m not suggesting you bark at each other, but learning a few hand signals will help to prevent those arms being flung up in the air in despair.
7. Be gracious
Farmers aren’t exactly renowned for being lavish with compliments, so you have to learn to spot them to feel appreciated.
A good example would be: “That dinner was nearly as good as my mother’s.”
That actually means it was grand. A perfect farm wife accepts compliments graciously and, if in doubt, presumes any comment is a compliment.
A farmer rarely throws anything away and so you’ll need to be skilled at this.
Finding uses for baler twine is a good start. Use it as a temporary belt, to mend a halter, secure a broken fence, act as a lead for the dog, tie the navel cord of a newborn calf if it is bleeding, tie the tops of bags of meal or even secure a gate.
If a welly has a hole in it, attach it to a wall, make a few more holes for drainage and fill it with soil before planting flowers or herbs in it. Hey presto, a “welly wall”.
9. Get on with your mother-in-law
Unless your mother-in-law is delighted to have married her son off and is looking forward to grandchildren, you may have to work hard to earn her approval.
It’s a fine line between cooking and baking dishes that are good enough to win prizes but yet not quite as good as hers.
Never ever compete with her or use the same recipe for a home-baked cake at a community event – just in case someone compliments yours within earshot of her.
10. Be a weather girl
You will need to know exactly what the weather is going to do, especially when his PST (pre-silage tension) and PHS (pre-harvest stress) set in.